SEASONS | 2003

27 matches: 21 wins, 6 losses

Top point scorer: Greg Alexander – 164 [13 tries, 56 goals]

Top try scorer: Rhys Wesser – 25

Player of the year: Rhys Wesser


The season started with the return of the sevens tournament for the first time since 1997 (1995 for Penrith), advancing past the pool stage but losing to Wigan in the Cup quarter final.

The premiership season started slowly, with Penrith second last after four rounds with one win and three losses.

A tight win over South Sydney on Easter Saturday sparked a club record eight straight wins, which contributed towards their ascension up the ladder. Whilst the streak finished, within weeks the Panthers were competition leaders after 18 rounds – and for the first time since 1991.

Penrith were setting the premiership alight with their sparkling attack, and whilst they were not a tight defensive unit, they generally had the confidence that they could outscore their opponents each week. In September, they were crowned minor premiers for the second time when they defeated Parramatta at Penrith Stadium in the final premiership round. They had only lost 3 matches in 20 after the first month.

After over powering Brisbane in the qualifying final and accounting for the New Zealand Warriors in the preliminary final, the Panthers had made their third grand final. Despite being minor premiers, they entered the showdown as rank outsiders against the Sydney Roosters, whom had made 2 of the 3 previous grand finals.

On a wet night in early October, the two teams faced off in a modern day classic. Penrith held a 6-0 lead at half time, and soon after the resumption the Roosters tied it up. Then came the turning point – lock forward Scott Sattler timed his run perfectly to perform a cover tackle on a seemingly run away Roosters winger and bundled him into touch. It lifted the Panthers, resuming their lead 12-6 soon after and then winger Luke Rooney scoring in the corner with minutes remaining to seal the 18-6 victory, with Penrith securing their second premiership. Just like 1991, they had been led by a local junior playing in the halfback position – this time it was Craig Gower. He was by all accounts the Dally M medal winner that year, however, the ceremony did not take place due to an industrial dispute.

It had capped off a remarkable turn of events – only two years before they were the worst team in the NRL, now they were the best.


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